"I think maybe everyone ought to hear this," John said without preamble. When Benjamin had called in the other two, he coughed anbd began rather hesitantly, "My sons...I've been having a little talk with Father Poemen. It seems...well, there's a slight problem about what happened in Terenuthis. It seems I did wrong...By my action, two men were put to serious suffering, maybe even death. Father Poemen told me what happens in the jail there. Apparently they beat the prisoners until they get tired, the jailers I mean, then when they’ve rested they beat them again, and very often they die as a result. The prisoners I mean. Father Poemen is right, I don’t want that on my conscience.”
“I resisted. I called for help. If I’d just given them the money, right there where they tried to grab me, instead of leading them back into the town where they were captured, none of this would have happened. If I’d had time to think . . . But it all happened so fast.”
“I don’t understand,” Zachary said.
“It’s really very straightforward.”
“I mean they were criminals. They should be punished. That’s the law.”
“That’s man’s law. Did we come to the desert to keep man’s law?” John asked.
“Absolutely not,” Benjamin said.
“No, because we could have done that in the city. We came to the desert to keep God’s law. God’s law tells us to love our enemies and refrain from judgment.”
“But ... but ...” Zachary was so bewildered he could hardly get the words out. “How could you have any kind of society if everyone was like that? If criminals weren’t punished?”
Zachary remained silent. What he had just heard seemed too absurd to be treated seriously. Surely it took the teachings of the gospel to ridiculous lengths, lengths to which not even Christ himself had intended them to be taken? Certainly it contradicted all that Zachary had come to understand, in
Benjamin broke the silence. “Well, what did Father Poemen say you should do?”
“Do? Do? It’s obvious, isn’t it?”
“You mean, get them out of jail?”
John nodded. “I put them there, didn’t I? So it’s my responsibility.”
“I don’t know. Father Poemen wasn’t much help there, I’m afraid. Said he’s spent his life as a shepherd and a hermit and he really knew very little about towns, jails or any of that sort of thing.”